Bring On The Major Leagues: The Fantasy Doctor Is In

steve-pic350Steve Alexander has a pretty sweet gig as senior editor of fantasy NBA basketball (and PGA golf) for Getting paid to watch hoops and write about it? Sign us up. But other than the fact that there are a couple of fantasy geeks in the MAGNET office—in addition to the real-life geeks—why do we care about Alexander? Well, he’s in leagues with indie-rock stalwarts such as Stephen Malkmus and Built To Spill’s Doug Martsch, among others. So we contacted the genial Dr. A for the scoop on the rockers’ fantasy acumens, as well as tips for the three MAGNET readers who play fantasy basketball.

Band Of Horses’ “Detlef Schrempf” from 2007’s Cease To Begin:

Do you live in the Pacific Northwest like Malkmus, et al?
Nope, I was born and raised in Indianapolis and moved to the north Georgia mountains about five years ago. When I was younger, my dream was to move to Seattle and work for Sub Pop, but I still haven’t even visited yet. I have, however, spent a glorious day in Portland.

What are some of your favorite bands?
Pavement, Sebadoh, Band Of Horses, Built To Spill, My Morning Jacket, the Whigs, Everest, Avett Brothers, Iron & Wine. I’m still a sucker for any pre-1998 R.E.M. and have come to love Tyler Ramsey’s solo record, A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea. I was pretty sad when Dirty On Purpose broke up recently, and while I’ve yet to give Bon Iver a whirl, I’m pretty psyched to check it out.

Are you in just one league with musicians or more than that? Who are some of the other musicians?
I’m in two leagues with music folks, and it’s my first year in both leagues. I was invited into Malk’s league but set the other one up on my own. Between the two leagues, we’ve got representatives from several of the bands I mentioned above: Pavement, Built To Spill, My Morning Jacket, the Whigs, Explosions In The Sky, Black Heart Procession, Quasi, the Grails, Dirty On Purpose—hope I’m not forgetting anyone. The rest of the folks in my league work in the industry, either for venues like First Avenue in Minneapolis and the Hollywood Bowl or record companies.

Do you know any of the musicians personally?
I’ve met a few of them face to face and talked on the phone with some, but most of the relationships are of the online variety. I organized the one league and everyone’s been really cool in the other one, so I feel like know most of them. I think they feel like they kind of know me since I post all my basketball thoughts on almost every morning and evening. And while early on it was kind of crazy to find myself in trade discussions or an email debate with one of my rock “heroes,” I quickly realized that we’re all basically just a bunch of 30- or 40-somethings who love music and b-ball.

Out of all of the rockers with whom you play fantasy hoops, who’s the best?
Malkmus is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and he’s got his fantasy stuff together, no doubt. Doug Martsch and I are rookies in his league and Doug’s team is also doing well, but Dimitri Dziensuwski from Black Heart Procession, who owns LeBron James, is on the verge of putting us all out of our misery. Speaking of which, Janet Weiss’ (Sleater-Kinney, Jicks) team might be the most injured one I’ve ever seen. In the other league, the rockers are kind of getting worked over by the industry folks. Unfortunately, my teams are just average in both leagues, but my friend Amy, who works for the Hollywood Bowl, is probably the best fantasy opponent I’ve ever faced. We’ve been in three or four leagues together, and she is extremely competitive, able to take quick and decisive action and rarely, if ever, makes a mistake. It really doesn’t matter what kind of drama she has going on, she will find a way to get to the waiver wire before anyone else, or make a trade that clearly benefits her team. It reminds me of Malkmus picking up Ron Artest off waivers while waiting to go through the X-ray machine at the airport. It’s all about priorities. But the key to both leagues is that nearly everyone is a hoops junkie and really knows what they’re doing. So whoever wins is not going to do so by accident.

Is Malkmus a fair trade partner? He seems like he’d try to pull a few heists.
Steve and I have made a couple trades, and he’s actually a really fair person to trade with. He’s easygoing, makes offers that he knows are legit and isn’t looking to rip anyone off. This is a funny story. He was trying to get Luke Ridnour from me for a little bit, but it never happened. When he offered to send me a copy of the Brighten The Corners reissue, I asked him to sign it for my daughter and he said he would—if I’d give him Ridnour. The disc showed up a few days later and was, of course, unsigned. My daughter saw that it was missing a “Malkmus” on it and immediately said, “You didn’t give him that Luke guy, did you?” But hey, if Malkmus wants to teach my 10-year-old, and her dad, the way the world really works, I’m all for it.

During live drafts: music or silence?
I draft about 15 basketball teams each season and it depends. When I first started playing in some of the “industry” leagues with some big names that people would recognize from television and websites (Matthew Berry, Rick Kamla, John Hollinger, Eric Karabell, Sergio Gonzalez, etc.), I would get pretty nervous and need complete silence. But it’s old hat nowadays, and I can have music, the TV and three or four kids in the room and still get through most of them without any problems. Although given the state of my teams in the two leagues we’ve been talking about, maybe I need to rethink that plan next year.

What’s the best rock ‘n’ roll-related team name you can remember?
It’s not rock ’n’-roll related, but Amy’s team name in my league last year was Aunt Vagina, which was pretty sweet given that all the other people in the league were guys. Not sure how rock-related these are, but Malk’s Widespread Perkins makes me smile. I’ve played as both Careful and Give Up, which are Sebadoh songs, and am currently playing against Pippen Ain’t Easy, Yeah Boyyyeee and Mike Love Not War.

Now on to the nuts-and-bolts fantasy hoops advice. Give us a two or three “under the radar” NBA guys who might be able to help a team right now.
Spencer Hawes isn’t going to help you much right now, but Brad Miller is almost certain to get traded out of Sacramento. When that happens, Hawes is going to be fun to own. Nick Young, Von Wafer, Mardy Collins, Trevor Ariza and Rodney Carney are unknowns to casual NBA fans but have been hot pickups in fantasy leagues recently.

Let’s say you have a star player—for the sake of argument, let’s call him “Tracy McGrady”—who’s just not doing what you thought he would. You’ve tried to deal him, to no avail. Is it smarter to hold on to him and hope that his performance/health improve or send him to the waiver wire and pick up someone you think can be productive?
Great question. There just so happens to be a player in the league by that name, and to say he’s struggling is probably generous. I don’t know, man, it depends on your league. But if I owned T-Mac, I would bury him on my bench and wait until he goes on another one of those three-game productive runs and then trade him for whatever I could get. It could be a six-pack of Natty Light, a bottle of Bumpy Face or Von Wafer, but I would probably take it and run. Unfortunately, you probably have a better chance of winning the lottery tomorrow than you do getting anything back in exchange for T-Mac right now.

In our league, very few of the teams are inclined to make trades or counter when other teams make offers. As a league commissioner, is there any real way to make for a more active trade environment (apart from having different guys who are more inclined to deal)?
I don’t think so. One thing that seems to help is to get the smack board going. Communication is the key to an active league, especially since everything is online these days. If your league’s message board doesn’t get used, there’s probably not much going on anywhere else either. If you happen to live in the same city as most of the people in your league, get everyone together to watch the Thursday games or something. Magically, just like in the real world, when owners get together and the beers start flowing, deals start to happen.

—Matt Hickey